**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Series: The Portal #1
Published by Harlequin Mira on September 18, 2012
Genres: Paranormal Romance
AMAZON • B&N • BOOK DEPOSITORY • Goodreads
From New York Times bestselling author Maggie Shayne comes the first novel in her thrilling new trilogy, THE PORTAL She was born to save what he is sworn to destroy...
A lapsed Wiccan, Indira Simon doesn't believe in magic anymore. But when strange dreams of being sacrificed to an ancient Babylonian god have her waking up with real rope burns on her wrists, she's forced to acknowledge that she may have been too hasty in her rejection of the unknown. Then she meets mysterious and handsome Father Tomas. Emerging from the secrecy of an obscure Gnostic sect, he arrives with stories of a demon, a trio of warrior witches-and Indira's sacred calling. Yet there's something even Tomas doesn't know, an inescapable truth that will force him to choose between saving the life of the woman he's come to love-and saving the world.
I recently became a Maggie Shayne fan with her new series Brown and Deluca. I really enjoyed her writing style and her crafting of a memorable heroine. As a result, I was more than excited to delve into the first book in her Portal series, MARK OF THE WITCH. Can I admit I came in with high expectations and left with some disappointment?
The premise of MARK OF THE WITCH is fantastic. A young woman, Indira, is a Wiccan who has lost faith and is suffering from nightmares of being thrown from a cliff – nightmares that feel too real to only be dreams. Enter a priest, Father Tomas, who is also questioning his faith, add to that a demon demanding to be set free, and finish it with a connection between all three of them that can change the course of the world and you have the ingredients of a great story. Indira has to figure out who she is and what her connection is to Tomas and the demon before it’s too late. The plot deals with past lives, Wiccan ritual, and religious intolerance. It’s a great premise, filled with complexity and mystery. I was drawn into trying to figure out who could be trusted and the role Indira must play in the course of events. There was something that felt fresh and different in the world and plot of MARK OF THE WITCH that kept me turning the page.
And of course there’s a “but.” BUT, I have to admit, I felt let down by certain aspects of the story. First, the reason Indira let go of her Wiccan beliefs — because she did a spell to find her true love and it didn’t work? Seems like you should try a few more before wholly giving up on your faith. This is a story that revolves around past lives, reincarnation, and lovers fated to repeat history. I wanted to learn more about Indira’s past, some flashback to a childhood that made her feel different, how she came to Wicca, etc. There was a curious lack of backstory for her that felt strange. Also, some of the writing with regards to the romance felt melodramatic. I admit to rolling my eyes a few times. And Tomas…I just couldn’t get into him. He’s faced with the tough decision of essentially choosing between the woman he is falling in love with or the man who practically raised him; he must choose between the beliefs he’s been indoctrinated in his entire life versus the unknown that Indira represents. Yes, I understand he’s questioning his faith; yes, I understand he’s just met a woman who has majorly shifted his worldview. But honestly? Nut up, dude. Make a decision. Stand up for what you feel is right and don’t defer to someone or something you feel in your gut isn’t good. His constant waffling and deference to a man he soon realizes he cannot trust got to be too frustrating after a while.
In the end, MARK OF THE WITCH is a PNR that felt fresh and different with regards to the “paranormal” but weak in the “romance.” The strong premise just wasn’t enough for me to recommend it highly. Right down the middle: 2.5 Howls!